Dunbar, Lawrence North On TV Tonight

ESPN2 will make a rare telecast of boys high school basketball tonight and it will feature three Ohio State signees as Dayton Dunbar (with Daequan Cook) tackles Indianapolis Lawrence North (with Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr.). The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. Click here for more details on this special match-up.

Remember Ivan Drago, the Russian boxer from Rocky IV dubbed as Rocky's unbeatable opponent? Tonight, Dayton Dunbar fans might be feeling just a little like Rocky.

That classic bout made for television pitted East versus West and tonight at 7:30 p.m., it will go just a little something like that. Ohio will meet Indiana on ESPN2 as Dunbar travels to Indianapolis to take on USA Today's No. 5-ranked team, Lawrence North High School.

It will be just like a heavyweight fight, but in a familiar setting. The two teams will meet tonight at Butler University's Hinkle Fieldhouse. It's the place of inspiration for the basketball movie "Hoosiers."

Much like Rocky did against Drago, Dunbar will look to take a kamikaze like approach behind 6-5 senior Daequan Cook, who averaged 21.6 points and 11 rebounds a game last year for the Wolverines who finished 22-5 before falling in the Division II state semifinals to eventual champion Upper Sandusky.

Of course, Cook is part of Ohio State's banner recruiting class for 2006. Tonight, he will go up against two more members of that blockbuster class in point guard Mike Conley Jr. and 7-0 center Greg Oden, the nation's top-rated player according to Scout.com. Cook, Conley and Oden have spent the last several years playing together on the Spiece Indy Heat AAU summer team.

Dunbar likes to play a fullcourt style of basketball. They want to run, but Lawrence North will tempt them to run.

"You have to be a little more careful against them," said Dunbar head coach Pete Pullen. "Normally we like to run but we've never had to challenge a 7-footer like that. We're going to run, we won't take that out of our game as that's part of it, but we'll pick and choose."

Behind the 6-1 Conley, the Wildcats are an experienced team that has won two consecutive state titles in the big-school Class 4A of Indiana basketball. Pressing is also a bit easier with the Oden defending the basket. Oden won the National Player of the Year honor for both Gatorade and the USA Today last season as a junior when he averaged 20 points and nine rebounds a game.

Although Lawrence North is typically a man-to-man defensive team, they will use their perimeter defense and depth as an advantage to try various junk zone defenses against Dunbar. A lot of it will be half-court pressing, like a 1-3-1 zone for example.

The Wildcats (4-0) have yet to find a suitable test in four games. Oden (21.8 points a game) and Conley (16.5 points a game) have been on the bench by the fourth quarter in a comfortable 30-point lead usually.

But Dunbar might present more of a test.

"Well, we feel we can run and also be effective in our half-court sets but we have to take care of the basketball," Pullen said of his team.

Mark Anderson (6-5) and Antoine Sain (5-10) are a pair of senior guards that both averaged just shy of 10 points a game last season. Both are athletic and both can score.

Last year in the state semifinals, Sain poured in 22 points for Dunbar in a high-octane 95-90 loss to the Rams.

Additionally, 6-9 Aaron Pogue has been playing strong in the middle for the Wolverines (2-0). In Dunbar's season opener last Friday, Pogue scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a big opening victory against Cincinnati Hughes. Cook added 18 points and eight rebounds.

"I think this is a big moment for Aaron," Pullen said. "It's going to be hard for him to match Oden point for point or even play close to him, but Aaron can hit these little 15-17 foot shots and we need to take advantage of those."

Tuesday night, Dunbar followed up their season opener with an easy 83-56 victory against Harrison. While Cook scored 17 in a couple of quarters of action, Pogue added another 13 points.

Dunbar point guard Darran Powell will have to carry the load for the Wolverines and handle the Wildcat pressure. But for Dunbar, the game has been riding on Cook's shoulders.

Those close to the Dunbar program have noticed Cook playing some of his best basketball so far this season in scrimmages, open gyms and the first two games of the season. Pullen is hoping that continues tonight.

"It happened the first couple of games like we know he's capable of doing," Pullen said. "We know he can score and he will do that for us but it's been so much more. His passing and rebounding and everything has really been elevated."

Ohio State fans will have a particular reason to watch this evening, as Cook, Conley and Oden play against one another for the first time – and also the last time. Beginning next year, the three Spiece Indy Heat teammates during the AAU season will play together at Ohio State.

But friendship and camaraderie aside, Dunbar must find a way to shut down the big man in the middle, No. 50.

"In the times I've been around him, although he's got a quiet demeanor and he's a humble kid, he's got a toughness about him," Pullen said. "He's always mentally prepared and he has a toughness on the court. That's something we've got to match."

Lawrence North has four other players that could cause problems. The first of which is 6-5 junior Damian Windham.

Windham is a terrific rebounder averaging nearly eight rebounds a game, and he's scoring just shy of 10 points a game. Against Marion on Saturday, in a 75-49 win, Windham brought Lawrence North back from a sluggish first quarter start to score eight consecutive points and give them a lead they never relinquished.

After that, it's nothing fancy. Guards Qadr Owen, Jason Weigel and Brandon McDonald are all disciplined role players that can shoot, pass and defend.

Just like Rocky decided to go after Drago in the classic 1986 thriller, Dunbar might take a few blows to the gut from Lawrence North, but don't expect them to back down.

As anyone would expect, the Wolverines are sky-high for this game, but Pullen realizes they will have to try to maintain their composure.

"We're going to have to block all that aside and that's going to be hard for the kids because they are kids, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime shot," Pullen said. "We've just got to prepare ourselves mentally."

For those that can make it to the game, tickets are $10 and can be purchased at either high school or at the arena. Hinkle Fieldhouse is located just north of downtown Indianapolis. To get there, exit I-65 at Meridian Street. Go north to 49th Street, then left on 49th five blocks to the Butler campus.

For those that can't be there in person, ESPN2's coverage will be provided by commentators Mark Jones, Fran Fraschilla and Jay Williams with studio analysis before, at halftime and after from Tom Brennan and Doug Gottleib.

Sylvester Stallone couldn't have scripted this one any better.

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